Masai Mara - Day 8 - 9 - Saturday, January 10, 2004

We started the day very early again with a long drive south to the infamous Masai Mara. This was possibly the worst of all the roads, and the three of us arrived to the Masi Sopa Lodge pretty battered! The Masai tribe has had so many articles and books written about them unlike the Samburu. We visited with some Masai in Amboseli Park earlier in the week. At the Gates of every national park we visit, Duncan leaves us in the car for about 5 minutes while he goes to the park office to pay for our entry. This is when the local tribes people beg us to buy their beautiful wares for anywhere from $1-$100. It feels pretty rude to keep the windows closed when they are talking to you, but once the window is open, their products are draped all over us and the bargaining begins. Duncan told us to just keep the windows shut. It feels rude and we haven?t been able to do it yet? It?s also hot as hell in the van. Needless to say, we hate stopping! They don?t take ?NO? for an answer.

Masi Mara Park is over 1500 square kilometers?HUGE! At 4000-5000 ft in the high desert, it looks like parts of south Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, or Utah. The terrain is very different than the other parks. It is also somewhat easier to spot game here, as there is more grass, less shrubbery. On our first game drive, we got a MUCH better view of a leopard hording his zebra kill atop a Sausage tree. He was very hard to spot until poking is head out of the top of the tree. We also saw a few cheetahs briefly as they ran around chasing some birds. Two new animals spotted today ? the Topi Antelope and the Hartebeest (or Gnu). Nice coloring? Today was much of the same as the other parks in seeing the plentiful zebras, elephants, gazelles, impalas, Cape buffalo, and dick-dicks. It seemed that all the species were either at play or sparring today, which is more interesting to watch than seeing them eat grass.

The theme of our morning game drive on day two was cats. Were we ever lucky to get an intimate view of a mama cheetah and her cubs just hanging around! These cats are sleek, fast, playful, and beautiful.

We also managed to get a peek at a pride of 13 lions. The lionesses were stalking a pair of antelope, but didn?t manage to make the kill for the hungry pride. The other 11 lions were hiding in the bushes looking on as the lionesses hunted. Lions aren?t that fast, so when the antelope took off, the lionesses missed their chance since they weren?t close enough to make the kill. The rest of the pride moved out to the watering hole after the unsuccessful lionesses returned. We also saw another pride of 7 lion racked out in the sun, barely moving. Both the lions and cheetahs passed right next to our van, not the least bit interested in our human scent.

The tree cover in Masai Mara is lower than that of the other parks providing us a great view of giraffes poking their heads atop the trees. The Masai Giraffe has a different pattern than both the Reticulated (Samburu) and Rothchild (Nakuru) Giraffes.

We spent the majority of our final game drive hoping to get a glimpse of the pride of lions from earlier in the day with a kill. No such luck, as they were hiding in the bushes. We did see one of the lions, a big male, lounging in the sun while another was rolled on its back with feet in the air? Other than that, we did see more Topi, an Elund, more birds and

After the game drive, we headed to the bar to catch CNN on satellite. The TV was on, but we didn?t hear a thing since we struck up a conversation with a fellow American. Rick is an accomplished landscape architect from Philly who lives in Lamu (northern most Kenyan Island before hitting Somalia) for a few months a year as well as SE Asia. He was a wealth of information as he has been traveling independently for parts of the year for a very long time. His childhood friend Phyllis was visiting from America, so he was playing safari host. We ended up spending a very fun evening with these folks talking about travel, etc? Rick offered us a chance to stay in his house in Lamu while he was finishing up safari with Phyllis. What an opportunity!!!! Rick has a long term lease on a house, complete with a houseboy and cook, owned by Richard Leakey (one of the kids of the famous archeologist who found the oldest skeleton in the world). Think snorkeling, sailing cruises between the islands, not many tourists, etc.. UNFORTUNATLEY, we couldn?t change our flights after several hours of trying to work it out. SUCH A BUMMER!!! Oh well, we are now off to beautiful Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border. We?ll keep Rick?s number in case we ever go on vacation again!!!

So, our safari is over. We?d do it again in a heartbeat. One of the best experiences we?ve had thus far.

Our last night in Kenya was spent in Nairobi. We managed to find an internet caf? in a dilapidated building, but were not surprised to find the speed to slow to upload our pics. Shocker.

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